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Carpet offers glimpse of palace life

By BO LEUNG in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-10-27 09:21
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This rare imperial throne carpet from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) is set to be sold in November at Christie's Paris. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A rare Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) carpet that once adorned the halls of the imperial palace within the Forbidden City will go under the hammer for an estimated 4.5 million euros ($5.2 million) at Christie's in Paris.

The auction house said there are only 39 complete carpets in existence today out of the hundreds that were originally woven, and 16 carry the highly-prized imperial dragon, nine of which are in Beijing's Palace Museum with just seven remaining in private hands.

The carpet features two five-clawed dragons and a seed pearl at its center.

Louise Broadhurst, Christie's rug and carpet specialists, said the carpet would have been placed on a raised platform where the throne of the emperor would sit.

"The emperor is considered as the son of heaven and his position would signify his connection between the Earth and the celestial heavens," Broadhurst said. "It's exceptionally rare that we have a complete example in fabulous condition."

The carpet would have originally been woven in red during the 16th century, but has now faded to a golden yellow.

It is believed the imperial carpet was bought in 1920 by a couple from the United States on their honeymoon in China.

They took it back to the US, loaned it to the Cleveland Museum of Art and then sold it from their collection in 1987 to a private collector in Switzerland, the current seller.

Broadhurst believes the imperial throne carpet would appeal to many collectors, with a strong possibility it will return to the Chinese mainland.

"The carpet is of a masterpiece level, so there are very few of them around … it could appeal to institutions, to private individuals and anyone who is collecting masterpieces," she said. "At the moment, there is an appetite for the rare and historically important piece and this is a key piece."

The carpet, measuring approximately 5 by 4 meters, will go on sale on Nov 23 in the Exceptional Sale in Paris. It will be on exhibition at Christie's London until Nov 7.

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